Introduction to Hebrews 1:1-2:4

26 Aug

I believe the book of Hebrews may be more relevant today to the Church in America than it has been for many years. We have seen more turmoil and social change in the last year than we have seen in a long time and much of it is directly connected to the Church and how we differ from the world. From the threats of ISIS to the jeers of the atheists to the rising numbers of those who are done with church, to those who are all about changing the long-held institution of marriage as expressed in the Bible, Christians are a people who are seeing our approach to life rejected, opposed and increasingly punished. There are probably hard days ahead, days when we will be seen increasingly as bigots and haters, when maybe even penalties or restrictions will come to us. Christianity will not be seen as a socially acceptable way to live. We are about to face a crisis of faith in America, so Hebrews is a very good place to go get prepared.

The Christians who first heard the message of Hebrews were a people in crisis. These people were early followers of Jesus who gathered regularly to worship, shared fellowship with one another, and who had already paid a price for following Jesus. In earlier days, the days at the beginnings of the church, they had joyfully accepted even having their possessions taken because of their faith.  They were people in exile, not trusted by the Jews because they worshiped Jesus as Messiah and not trusted by Gentiles because they worshiped Jesus as the One true God. They were probably rejected by family, made fun of in the community and generally regarded with suspicion. Yet they did well with all this for a while. But that all changed in AD 64. With the great fire in Rome Nero needed someone to blame and he blamed the Christians. Now, rather than just being ridiculed or losing status or possessions these Christians were in danger of losing their lives. Arrest, questioning, and violence were all realities. The hardship these believers were facing had moved to a whole new level after AD 64. And many of those in the church were shaken up by this persecution. Some stopped coming to the worship services. Others came but with a faltering faith, scared of what came next. Some were probably questioning God, wondering why He was allowing all this hardship. So like a true pastor, the author of Hebrews comes to the church with the sermon-like letter, a word of exhortation encouraging the church to not give up even in a hostile culture.

Where does he begin his encouragement? With Jesus. This is where we should always begin our encouragements, as Hebrews 12 tells us, “Looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” The preacher starts with Jesus reminding the readers of who He is so that they would understand that He can be trusted.

The first section of the letter (1:1-2:4) focuses on exalting Christ and warning the readers of Hebrews not to disregard the exalted Christ, so that their trials obscure the Savior.

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